Friday, July 30, 2010

How to make EASY corn tortillas

Buenos dias amigos!

After writing yesterday about hard shells and real tortillas, I thought I should start looking for a video that would show you how to make them really easy.... So I went to youtube and found this video, watched it and liked it a lot because it really shows how easy making tortillas is.

There are just a few things I would like to explain first though:

1. Be careful when pressing the tortilla in the tortilla press, if you press too hard then you will only get a super-thin tortilla, so thin that it will be impossible to remove from the press or too hard to handle and transfer to the hot pan to cook. You will find what's best for you after the first 1 or 2 tortillas you attempt to make.

2. The lady in the video used a griddle to cook the tortillas, I use a "comal" which is like a Mexican griddle type of thing, is just a flat iron pan, it does not have to be non stick... tortillas will not stick to the "comal".

3. You will notice that she uses a plastic bag in the tortilla press (you will see what I am talking about once you watch the video) that step is REALLY IMPORTANT and can't be skipped, if you don't use it you will only have pieces of dough stuck to your tortilla press instead of a beautiful tortilla.

4. Homemade tortillas like these, have to be used right away, they are not good when stored, same thing with the dough, you just make the dough for the tortillas you will eat and eat the tortillas you made, once you have practice making tortillas you will find that is very easy and it doesn't take you long.

5. Homemade tortillas are great to go with your Mexican food or to make your very own tacos, but they are not good to make entomatadas, flautas, enchiladas, etc.... When I share recipes for those dishes I will specify that you cannot use your homemade tortillas. And that is because the thickness is really different from those store bought tortillas or the ones you can get in a "Tortilleria", the consistency and flexibility is different and they are not great to be fried, these tortillas have to be eaten right off the "comal".

So, here is the video I found on how to make tortillas with MASECA.

If you have any questions please let me know!



Provecho!

Paloma.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What about Hard Shell Tacos?

Hola amigos! I am back! I have been having great days enjoying my mom and grandma' here at home! I will certainly miss them once they leave....

But let's not get sad and let's talk today about one "traditional ingredient" and one of the "main things" that come to mind whenever someone talks about "Mexican food" in the USA.... TACO SHELLS

Where do hard shells come from? Are they really Mexican? THEY ARE FAR FROM IT!

A "taco" is just one of the MANY traditional dishes in Mexico, it is composed of a CORN tortilla (and in the North of Mexico it is also common to be made of a wheat -flour- tortilla), this tortilla is folded or rolled around a filling (any filling) and there you go! You have a TACO!

Recipes for "tacos" in the USA are ... weird to me, when I grew up making "tacos on my own" everyday with anything they put in front of me to eat, if I had refried beans and tortillas then I made my "tacos de frijoles" (bean taco), and it was the same if there was meat, cheese, chicken, eggs, or basically ANYTHING (even tomato or chili peppers) ... Any ingredient can be made into a "taco" if it is put in a tortilla, that is why I also find it confusing when people talk about things like "taco salad" or "taco mix" because I can't understand how that can be related to a taco in any way! (Now that I know what a taco salad or taco mix are, I agree it can taste good, but I like to explain to people that if they want something really Mexican, those things are not going to help them get it) ... A taco is eaten without utensils, just with your bare hands and it is commonly accompanied by salsa, cilantro, tomatoes, onions or lettuce.

What am I saying? That taco shells, taco mix or taco salads are bad? That nobody should ever eat in Taco Bell? No, I am not saying that, even when it's not my favorite type of food, everyone is free to like or dislike whatever they prefer, but I am just saying that if you are really interested in enjoying real Mexican food, none of those things I mentioned are Mexican, not even close, not at all.

It seems that the "hard-shell, U-shaped taco" was first described in a cookbook in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1949 and they started being massively produced when some devices were invented to hold the tortillas in U-shape while being deep fried in New York in 1950. Most of my life I lived in the Northeast of Mexico, right in the border with Texas, and even there (where food can be "influenced" in some places by American Fast Food chains) I had NEVER seen a hard taco shell. I first saw one when I came to live USA, there is no such thing in Mexico. And personally, I really dislike their flavor.

I encourage you to get real Mexican corn tortillas, if you've ever been in a "Tortilleria" in Mexico, you know what I am talking about! But, you can also make your own, it is REALLY SIMPLE! You can buy INSTANT CORN MASA MIX (you see? even the name tells you it is easy, I am not asking you to buy corn and grind it! LOL!) I use the brand "MASECA" and just follow the instructions of the package, you will see what I am talking about! You will also need a tortilla press like this one:

 Note: Picture taken from http://gozamos.com (This picture is not mine)

This type of press is not expensive at all! And you will make the most perfect round tortillas with it! everyone will love them! And you will  know why REAL TACOS are so much better!

Provecho

Paloma.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fire .... Fighters!

Hola amigos! Today I am going to tell you about a way of getting rid of the heat from that salsa you love or from that hot pepper you ate.... How many times have you tried to fight the heat in your mouth with water or soda or a cold drink? I am sure it's been many times! and I hope you already learned that drinking something doesn't help, on the contrary it spreads that horrible sensation even more.... Have you ever tried spilling some water over hot oil? it just makes it go "crazy"... There are certain "fires" that cannot be extinguished with water, and the heat from a hot pepper is one of those cases, hot peppers have seeds and veins, and they contain oils which cause the heat and that is why it is so hard to get rid of it.

But, do not worry... The solution is really simple:  SALT, just grab a pinch of salt and eat it, try to dissolve it in your tongue and swallow it, that is by far the most effective way to "break" those oils.

Don't take me wrong, I love FIRE in my food, but CONTROLLED fire, I don't like being in pain. Eating should be an enjoyable experience, I love the flavor of a good chili pepper but I don't enjoy feeling like my whole mouth is burning.

If you want to mostly "AVOID" the fire from your peppers, make sure you remove not only the seeds but the veins too (do this using latex gloves) and start eating a small amount and add more to taste as desired. You will notice that your tolerance for heat will increase the more often you try fiery foods!

 Picture above: My poor gringo added too much salsa to his taco.

Provecho!

Paloma.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tostadas de Pollo

Hola amigos! I just want to give a quick update from my very Mexican Kitchen.... which is even more Mexican now that my mom and grandma' are here spending some days with us!

I haven't cooked anything! but I am still eating real Mexican food! From tostadas to a potato/carrot soup, it's been great! So I thought I should share a "Chicken Tostadas" recipe with all of you...

There are different ways to make chicken tostadas, these are the ones we had last week:

Ingredients:
(for 4-6 people)
- Corn Tostadas (12)
- 1/2 a can of Refried Pinto Beans (these brands are easy to find in USA and they are very good: "La Preferida", "Goya" "Adelita" "La Costena" "La Sierra"
- Cooked and shredded chicken (you can use leg quarters or chicken breast, or even mix the two) approx. 2 pounds. (just boil your chicken with enough water, salt, 1/2 white onion and 3 whole cloves of garlic, once it is cooked, let it cool a little so you can handle it and shred it)
- 3 red tomatoes (chopped or thinly sliced)
- chopped (in stripes I would say, julianne) lettuce (about 1/2 a lettuce, or more)
- 1/2 big white onion (chopped)
- 4 oz. queso fresco (Mexican fresh cheese, it's not too hard to find) (crumbled, you can easily crumble it with your fingers)
- 1 thinly sliced avocado (1 big avocado or 2 small ones)
- Mexican style sour cream (if you can not find Mexican style sour cream just use more queso fresco)
- Salsa verde (optional)
- Salt to taste

Directions:

- Spread a thin layer of the refried beans on all of your tostadas
- Add the shredded chicken (equally on all the tostadas)
- add the rest of the vegetables (lettuce first, then avocado, onions, tomatoes)
- Add the crumbled queso fresco and then each person can add the sour cream and salsa.
- Add a pinch of salt to each tostada on top and voila! You are set to go to have a wonderful Mexican meal!



Today we will be having "POLLO CON MOLE" for lunch... I will share the recipe with all of you soon! So, stay connected!

Provecho

Paloma.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Entomatadas!

Hola amigos! A new week has started and for me it's started in a very special way! My mom and grandma' from Mexico are visiting for 3 weeks! isn't that wonderful? My house feels like Mexico, my hubby has been great, trying to speak some Spanish with us! He is just so thrilled he gets to eat even more Mexican food! especially since lately I haven't been cooking as much... By the way, did I tell you the embarrassment I went through the other day? My neighbor (Tracy) came to help hubby move a big file cabinet out so we could get a room ready for my mom and grandma' .... He's been great following my blog and promoting it on his FB profile... So, he came, probably expecting the "aromas, colors and flavors" I have been speaking about here, and he found me eating Mac n' Cheese and Mashed potatoes for dinner... and they weren't even real mashed potatoes (or mac n' cheese) it was all from a box and fake cheese.... Well, I have the excuse of the pregnancy! don't I? Anyway... I felt so bad that the next day that I was craving "entomatadas" I decided I would make them NO MATTER WHAT! No more excuses!

And this is what I made:

Of course I had to make rice too! I wish I would've gone far enough to make refried beans too (or at least I wish I had a can of good refried beans) but I didn't, but I must say they were AMAZING! I enjoyed them so much! And I was really happy I made them, next time I will have my neighbors over for some entomatadas so they see that I truly cook Mexican stuff too!

Would you like the recipe for these? I bet you do! You have to make them! I could write the recipe here, but I don't need to, my friend Leslie Limon has a great Authentic recipe to make entomatadas here: La Cocina de Leslie

I know you will love them! Let me know how they turned out for you!

Provecho!

Paloma.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Guacamole - Recipe

Hello my friends! How are you? I've been meaning to write something lately but the nausea hasn't allowed me to! I am actually taking a brave step at this very moment, trying to write about food... when I don't really feel like it... But I want to keep my promises and share with you a recipe....So, I chose an easy and delicious one (very healthy too!): Guacamole!

I know there are many versions "out there" and some are authentically Mexican, although, with Guacamole I like to keep it simple, fresh and really really natural... I can tell you that if a guacamole recipe calls for "Taco Mix" is not authentically Mexican then... and you should discard it immediately

The way I make guacamole is really simple and here are the ingredients you need:

(serves about 5 people)
2 Avocados (Hass) - (See the final note to know how to pick a good avocado)
2 Red Tomatoes (they can be roma tomatoes)
1/2 white onion (if it's too big use a little less)
1/2 lime (juice, always use fresh juice) - you can add more to taste
1 cup of chopped cilantro (fresh cilantro only)
salt to taste
(optional serrano pepper) I usually do not add the pepper because my daughter loves guacamole, so that's why it's optional, it depends if children or people who can't tolerate any heat will eat it too, if you are going to go for it then start with 1/2 a serrano pepper and experiment with that, add more if you think you can handle it.



What you need to do is chop all the ingredients (except the avocado and lime of course), mix them and set them aside, mash the avocados, you can make guacamole as clumpy or smooth as you like, do not blend it in the blender though, just use a fork, add the lime and salt and mix it all together with the tomatoes, onions and cilantro you set aside.

I leave the avocado last because it tends to get dark (oxidation), the lime will help prevent that oxidation, some people leave the seeds of the avocados in the guacamole believing this will keep it from darkening, the truth is that it doesn't, what happens is that guacamole gets dark from being in contact with oxygen, and the seeds kind of help the avocado around it (the one that touches it) to be in contact with oxygen, there is nothing special or magic about the seed, it could really be anything (even a light bulb LOL!) So, what would work better is some "Saran Wrap", place the guacamole in the container that you will serve it and cover it tightly with Saran Wrap, so the lime and the wrap will really help you keep a nice looking guacamole.

 Note: The "bump" on top of the pic is the "lime squeezer". By the way, get one of those if you don't have it.

There you have it, I hope you make it and enjoy it! you can have some tortilla chips to eat it as a snack or put it in your next "Real Tacos"

Note: To know how to pick ripe avocados click here 













  • Step 2
    Pick that avocado up and examine the stem end. If the avocado is ripe, you will be able to pull the stem out very easily. If the stem is already missing, or your not sure how easy it was for you to pull out the stem, read on.







  • Step 3
    Hold the avocado in your hand and gently squeeze it. An unripe avocado will feel like a stone. An over-ripe avocado will feel loose under the skin. A ripe avocado will feel the same as if you were to squeeze the palms of your hands.







  • Step 4
    Know when the varieties of avocados are in season. Haas avocados are available year-round but at their peak from April to November. Fuerte are available from November to July. Reed are available from March to September. Booth, Lula and Taylor are available from the end of June through February. Zutano are available from October to May. Bacon are available from November through July.








  • Provecho!

    Paloma.

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010

    Carne Asada

    Good morning everyone! As I promised, I will share with you our "Sunday Dinner".... It was "Carne Asada" (Grilled meat).

    For us, Mexicans, Grilling or BBQing is a WHOLE experience, it has to do with the open flames, the flavors and the aromas, forget about GAS GRILLS! (Gas is for our stoves), to grill we use charcoal or MESQUITE wood (among other types of wood) but never gas... In Mexico we can grill pretty much everything. Grilling takes us back to our very origins; actually, even when Mexico has very modern cities, like Monterrey, (which by the way got hit really badly by Hurricane Alex) many places are proud to offer really "old fashioned" and GOOD cooking, and it's all done over the open flame, Monterrey is actually known for its famous "Cabrito" (baby goat), usually cooked on a stick, directly over the fire, it is just DELICIOUS!

    So, as Mexicans, we basically grill whatever we have available, from vegetables, tortillas, cheese, beans, fish or any other meats, the specialties vary from State to State (and sometimes from city to city)

    So, on Sunday, hubby and I had friends over (a wonderful couple with beautiful kids!) and we decided to grill out, whenever I say "let's grill out", hubby still thinks of hamburgers and brats, but he is getting used to my grilling... Our grill isn't as big as I'd like it to be, so we are kind of limited by the space and time, but hopefully we will get one big (never gas) grill soon!



    This was our menu

    Guacamole
    Grilled banana peppers stuffed with queso fresco (Mexican style cheese)
    Chicken
    Thinly sliced sirloin steaks
    Mexican Chorizo
    Salsa verde, pico de gallo
    Grilled onions
    Tortillas
    and glass bottled coke (imported from Mexico)

    Forgive my "fine china" I am using mostly disposable stuff to avoid the load of dishes, I don't feel like washing much stuff lately

    All the ingredients we needed we got at "El Rey" a Mexican Supermarket close to our house, you can find the "Mexican coke" there too... it's not expensive and it does taste different (way better) than the American Coke (which I wonder why).

    For dessert we had a very American Apple Pie (baked in a bag) we got at wonderful store The Elegant Farmer about 30 mins. away from home, they are the proud holders of the title of the "Best Pie in America" and some coffee (which I didn't drink, I just can't drink coffee yet...)

    Please stay connected... I will be sharing in the following days the recipes so you can have this same menu the next time you grill.... and you will have a very authentic and really Mexican GUACAMOLE (no taco mix, no sour cream, no garlic powder!)



    Provecho!

    Paloma.

    Sunday, July 11, 2010

    Just a little sneak peek... of tomorrow's post

    We are having friends over tonight! so we are getting ready for a "Mexican Style" Grill out!

    We have great Mexican ingredients... and I will be sharing with you all about it tomorrow...

    Right now... I just want to leave you with this picture:


    Banana peppers stuffed with queso fresco! (before they are grilled... YES... THEY WILL BE GRILLED TOO!)

    Yummy!

    Trust me... they have a very mild heat (they have been properly cleaned inside and out to make sure of this) and the flavor is just... mmmh! you will have to try it.... I will let you know how to make them... tomorrow! You can add these to any grill out! And they are SOOOO GOOD!

    Provecho!

    Paloma.

    Friday, July 9, 2010

    A guilt free Snack... WITH FIRE!

    Hello my friends! I hope you are enjoying this blog so far! Today is a hot day in Wisconsin (it's been pretty hot this week) and it got me thinking of what I would be eating if I was in Mexico right now... and I know that for sure I would be stopping one of those "carritos de fruta ambulantes" (mobile fruit stands) which you can find in any street of Mexico, especially during Summer!




    But... I can make my own here... at least it will be pretty close to it:

    What you will need to make your own "fruta con chile" "fruit with chili powder" (yes, now you know where the fire is!) is:

    Note: You can use any of the following fruits... or all of your favorite ones in the list below and mix them.... I highly recommend to use JICAMA (you will see what it is below) and cucumber too!

    Cucumber (peeled and sliced)
     Jicama (peeled and sliced) (jicama = jícama = yam bean = Mexican yam bean = ahipa = saa got = Chinese potato = Mexican potato = Chinese turnip  Pronunciation: HIH-kuh-ma)
    Slices of a fresh coconut
    Cubes of Watermelon
    Mango (in slices or cubes)
    Orange wedges
    Slices of pineapple

    FRESH lime juice (about 1/2 lime per cup of fruit), 
    Salt to taste
    Chili powder (you can use ground bird pepper "chile piquin molido" or the bottles with chili powder  for fruit ... Brands "Tajin or Trechas")

    and you are good to go!

    If you are going to go for Mango... it's better if that's on its own with the lime, salt and chili powder and not mix it with other fruits... if you go for the other fruits (and the jicama root) they can ALL BE MIXED TOGETHER... it will look BEAUTIFUL! The amount of chili powder will be according to the amount of heat you can tolerate... so start with a little bit and taste it and add more as you like.

    Here is an example of jicama with chile:


    There you have it! The refreshing flavor of Mexico on your table! I hope you go for it and try it! Whenever I've been on diets and trying to lose weight I've found that eating "jicama and cucumber" like this really satisfies my cravings and I don't need "chips" and things like that.... Jicama has only 46 calories per cup and cucumber even less!!! cucumber has only 16 calories per cup... So... even if you are on a diet you can live the Mexican experience too!

    Enjoy!

    Paloma.

    Thursday, July 8, 2010

    "Mexican Eating Schedule"

    Something I've found very interesting (and it's taken me a while to adapt) is the different schedule for the meals between Mexico and USA... Here in USA everybody seems to "be done eating" so early.... In Mexico... it isn't like that at all (I must admit that the American way it's healthier though, but it's still a difficult adjustment)

    Here is a common schedule in Mexico:


    7:00 a.m. - Desayuno (Breakfast) - probably some toast, fruit, yogurt, milk and banana shake or orange juice (any of those options)

    9:00 - 11:00 a.m. - Almuerzo (something similar to brunch) - This is where the good stuff comes: A good example of almuerzo would be "chilaquiles" (wedges of corn tortilla - fried with onions and garlic, green or red salsa), The dish is topped with cheese (typically "queso fresco") and/or Mexican style sour cream ("crema Mexicana"), also some eggs on the side, refried beans and coffee to drink. We can also have "tamales", "tacos mañaneros" (morning tacos), "barbacoa" (meat roasted in an oven, traditionally dug in the ground) and many other things like that.

    1:00 - 4:00 p.m. - Comida (Lunch) - It's usually more abundant than in other countries, and it commonly starts with "sopa aguada"  ( it's like a clear soup, more like a broth) and/or salad, then the main dish ("arroz y guisado") it usually consists of rice and some type of meat -chicken, pork, beef, fish, anything! this is where the "mole" and "picadillo, cortadillo, chiles rellenos, etc" come in. To drink you would have "agua fresca" (it's a delicious and very refreshing fruit drink, which fruit? well, it can be cucumber, lime, watermelon, cantaloupe, mango, tamarind, "horchata" -which is made with rice- and many others)


    5:00 - 7:00 p.m. - Merienda (Like an afternoon or evening snack) where we usually have "pan dulce" (traditional Mexican pastry) and coffee, milk or chocolate milk.


    9:00 - 10:00 p.m. (or later) - Cena (Dinner) You can enjoy "taquitos" (very common to eat taquitos from the stands on the streets, no hard shells by the way, I knew those when I came to the USA), "tostadas", "tortas" or anything you like... It is very common to see people having dinner outside their houses or in the informal "establishments" of the streets of Mexico, Coke is also a very common drink in Mexico (even when it's not exactly a Mexican tradition) unfortunately it has INVADED our country.... Pepsi is seen as a "bad imitation" of Coke there... so, it is not as popular.

    You will also find that there are "street stands" all day long, those that are specifically for dinner usually open at 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. and close at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning... Trust me, there will be people eating at that time!

     Picture above: My hubby enjoying the "Mexican experience" at a night taco stand in Mexico.

    So, there you have it.... A brief example of what our "eating" day would look like... Of course you don't HAVE to have it all... In my home we didn't really use to have "Merienda" but... it's a very traditional Mexican "thing"

    I am soooo hungry now!

    Paloma.

    Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    Welcome to "Cooking with Fire"

    I am so excited to start this new blog, some of you may already know me from "The Coffee Shop" , and I am really sorry I haven't posted there lately, as some of you know too, I am pregnant at this very moment, and Coffee is not exactly my best friend right now, I became the person I never thought I could be, and I can't stand the smell of coffee (luckily it might just be temporary)... But I pray I will be able to keep up with this new blog, that will be dedicated to Mexican Food, I hope I can answer questions, make you laugh, share Mexican expressions and at the same time inspire you to be part of the AMAZING and VAST world that Mexican cuisine is!

    The name, COOKING WITH FIRE, came to me just recently, thinking of how hard it is for me to cook in other houses here in the USA where you usually find "electric stoves", at least where I am living, it seems that electric stoves are the most popular thing, and for a true Mexican that can be quite frustrating, we need to see the flames of fire, that help us not only "cook" but it is an essential part of our daily living and whole "family experience in the kitchen" the flavors and the aroma that fire creates are incomparable, trust me, everyone should have FIRE in their home!

    As you may or may not know, our food (Mexican) has fire all over it, from the passion we have when cooking, to the fire roasted HOT peppers that make us sweat!

    I hope you will enjoy this blog! I will try to post 5 times a week! Please join us.... and stay... even if you have an electric stove....


    Picture above: My dad grilling.

    Paloma.